So, this blog is way overdue, SORRY! It’s been a busy year so far, mixed with a bit of procrastination. BUT, I am back and ready to post. So, without further delay, here is the breakdown of my first trip to England, YAY!
This is a country I have been so excited to visit. You may be thinking, “Why England?” Well, there are a few reasons really, like Harry Potter World (of course), the multitude of breath-taking castles and Abbeys, the endless amount of History this country has. Oh, and let’s not forget that I love the open fields and herds of sheep haha.
One of the experiences I was dreading most when we moved to Germany, was the thought of spending Christmas without family. Coming from quite a large and energetic (mostly loud) Italian family back in South Africa, Christmases were quite an event. An incredible time where everyone comes together to eat (because food is very important to us), chill by the pool (yes, SA has summer Christmases), laugh with, and sometimes at, each other and play games. It really is my favourite time of the year, so my heart was quite heavy at the thought of not being home with everyone.
But, I am rather blessed to have married a man who also has a big and wonderfully loving family, many of which live in the UK – a lot closer than SA! And thus, our exciting UK Winter Christmas adventure was planned!
So I will take you through a few of the places we visited and things we saw. There is A LOT we still need to see and do In the UK, but this was a wonderful start!
- Huddersfield: Our first stop (after a lengthy wait at the car rental agency) was Huddersfield. This is where Stewart’s Aunt Hilary and her wonderful family live. It is such a nice, calm and beautiful town. We were only here for a few days and definitely have so much more to explore here. Our first day here we explored Castle Hill and Victoria Tower an awesome historical building with an incredible view of the town and surrounding fields. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.
- Tesco experience: When in England right? “Do you know where I can buy a pyjama, jar of marmite, pack of cards and cold meats platter for 2?” “Why yes, at Tesco’s!” Yup, it almost has it all! In South African, it would be like a Pick-n-Pay Hyper, In Germany, perhaps like a Kaufland. My goodness did I want to buy EVERYTHING!
- Christmas Park Run: Yup, there was no way we were going to miss this festive athletic occasion. And, of course, we were going to do it Christmas style! So all decorated in our Christmas gear, we ALL took part. First 5km I have done in MONTHS! But it is such a lovely park and being surrounded by others in the Christmas spirit and marshals wishing us a Happy Christmas as we passed, there was just no way you couldn’t enjoy it! An epic start to the day, and I say we definitely deserved our ridiculously Delicious bacon sandwiches and Christmas Lunch! It was such a lovely Christmas, and although I felt the absence of my family back in SA, spending this time with my new family filled me with genuine love and joy! It’s definitely one of my favourite Christmases! Thank you to Hilary, Richard, James, John and the Leith’s for being so incredibly welcoming and loving!
- Fountains Abbey: So I think this was probably my favourite place we visited during our trip! After forests, old ruins, abbeys and castles are my next favourite things in the world. This Abbey was INCREDIBLE. Walking through the ruins and just trying to imagine what it was like when it was still whole, and what the lives of those who lived in it must have been like, is just surreal. It is huge! I am always blown away when I think about how they used to build these massive, breath-taking monuments all those years ago. There is so much history in these walls and halls, which makes it so much more attractive and splendid. We walked around the grounds, which add to the beauty and SPECTACULAR-NESS (yes, I made this up and claiming poetic license). It’s the perfect place to spend the day with family and friends, wondering the gardens and having small picnics perhaps. They also had a really nice carol service while we visited, which was a lovely addition to the Christmas feeling.
- Castle Howard: Ah, beautiful Castle Howard. When we saw pictures of it we knew we had to go see it! Unfortunately, the day we went, it was so misty, and you could hardly make out the entire building (let alone take photos). We did, however, do the tour of the inside, and man oh man is it grand! The family still lives in the castle. The rooms we got to see were magnificent (and all available to be used, especially when guests or family come over). I wouldn’t mind making friends with them haha. Every year, over the Christmas season, when visitors are allowed in, they decorate the house according to a theme. Last year’s theme was 12 days of Christmas, and they pulled out all the stops! We would have loved to see it in the sunlight, but it was still a cool experience. And we enjoyed a delicious sausage roll, so that was a win.
- York: This is probably a common stop for most people when visiting England and with good reason! Beautifully quaint streets, Harry Potter location must-visits, delicious fish and chips AND a gorgeous Gothic Cathedral! York Minster is grand, and (I am probably going to be using this word a lot, sorry) BEAUTIFUL. The stained glass windows are works of art I could spend hours staring at. I have seen a few cathedrals in my life, and you would think by now they would all just start looking the same, but every time I step into a one, my jaw drops and I am blown away again. Every detail, every piece of glass or sculpture has a meaning and purpose. All skilfully made and probably took years to finish. York Minster is truly a sight to see. We took a walk around the ancient walls that surround it and got to see its splendour from almost every angle – BONUS! I must say, at this point, we were extremely lucky with the weather we had. I had my first English Fish& Chips experience at an awesome shop called Drakes Fish & Chips – I highly recommend stopping here on your trip because YUM is not even the half of it!
- Lincoln Cathedral and Castle: “A place where kings and convicts have walked, a symbol of power and punishment through the ages, and home to an original 1215 Magna Carta” – These buildings, walls, pathways, have seen battles, struggle, heartache and the making of history. This was one of the top places to visit on Stewart’s list and I only realised why when I got there. The Cathedral was one of the tallest buildings in the world for several hundred years and is the seat of the Archbishop of Lincoln and home to the Magna Carta. Unfortunately, we were unable to see the Magna Carta, but after a lengthy search, we found the legendary Imp within the Cathedral. Legend tells of a demon sent to the church was turned into stone by an Angel. I’m not sure what to think about the legend, but standing within these walls I can’t help but think how wonderful that these magnificent buildings were created as a place to worship our Lord… even though He does not require them.
- Bletchley Park: There are so many things, stories, events and ideas in this world that completely fascinate me, get me thinking and wanting to learn more. A lot of them have to do with our past, things that have occurred, secrets discovered, and undiscovered. Over the past few years, I have watched more movies about the past world wars, read books based on those times and visited places that hold reminders of the atrocities of the past. Humans have gone through, caused, and resolved unbelievable events in our existence. Visiting this once well-kept secret place, where so many incredibly intelligent and diligent men and women worked to stop one of the worst wars in our history was quite a strange experience. I looked at the buildings, pictures and inventions, I read the stories and history, but when I tried to digest and comprehend it all, I struggled. It’s hard to imagine it all, and feel it when we can go home to a safe place. The reason I wanted to come here was because of Alan Turing, but I left with a whole lot of respect and admiration for many more of those who served in secrecy. “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine” – Alan Turing. This is a MUST for EVERYONE!
- Cambridge: Visiting Cambridge was like visiting a whole other world! I felt like I was in a movie and needed to get to class in one of the insanely stunning campuses. It was nice to see where some of the great thinkers of our time, both past and present, have studied. I felt quite envious I must admit!
- London: Right, now how to tackle the topic of lovely London. Well to start, you need a whole lot more than 2 days to see it all properly! Second, WOW! Talk about cultural, historical, architectural and edible mind explosions! We spent 2 days walking, what felt like the entire city! This was an amazing way to make sure we saw most of the sites, even though we did not go into every one of them – we will return! Buckingham, Big Ben (unfortunately under construction), all the bridges, the Globe, London Tower, Tower Bridge, we went into both the Natural History and Science Museums (side note here, please schedule a whole day just for the museums, if not a day each!) They are massive and you want to look at EVERYTHING, oh, and free – YUP!
- New Year’s Eve: We spent our New Years with Stew’s awesome family. We took a walk around Camden Market which was pretty cool to see, grabbed something to eat and headed over to a nearby bar for drinks. We then walked over to Primrose Hill (with a few other hundred people) to watch the famous London Fireworks from afar. It was awesome! We didn’t see all the formations but saw them we did. It was an amazing way to spend New Year’s away from home.
- Windsor Castle: Ah… I need to go back to this one. We didn’t manage to do a tour of the Castle this time, but we were super lucky to accidentally see the changing of the guard! I would like that to happen when I leave my house please hehe.
There is SO MUCH MORE to England than what I have just explained, this was just my trip explained in a flash hehe. We definitely want to go back, a few times, to explore more, and actually go into some of the sites we never got a chance to do this past trip. Some of our future “must see” include doing a Harry Potter World tour, a Jack the Ripper tour, going into the Tower of London, I would still love to go into Windsor Castle, Oxford and so much more!
If you have any MUST SEE places you think we should visit, please let me know 🙂